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New Hampshire Gun Control Laws

Gun control is a hot topic of debate in the U.S., pitting federal constitutional protections against public safety concerns about gun violence. The regulation of firearms occurs under both state and federal law. New laws are rare at the federal level given the lack of agreement between members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. As a result, states tend to have a larger role in regulating guns and determining who can purchase, sell, transfer, and possess them.

In recent years, state and local regulations have had to adjust to major rulings in the area of gun rights from the U.S. Supreme Court. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Court overturned a local law that prohibited the registration of handguns and required gun owners to keep any registered firearms in the home unloaded and disassembled or controlled with a trigger lock. 

In a 5-4 ruling, the Court majority found that the Second Amendment guaranteed citizens an individual right to possess and carry weapons in self-defense, including in the home.

In New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022), the Court struck down a New York law that provided that authorities “may issue" a concealed carry permit if the applicant shows good cause or special need. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court majority concluded the discretion in the law violated the law-abiding citizen's right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense. 

The Court announced a new test for gun regulations. First, the reviewing court will assess whether the regulation places a burden on the individual right to possess and carry firearms in case of confrontation, inside or outside the home. If so, then the government must show that the regulation is consistent with the historical tradition of firearm regulation in the U.S. 

This case makes it clear that the courts will look for objective criteria for such licensing regimes such that a permit “shall issue" when the applicant meets the criteria.

Following the court holdings in Heller and Bruen, some states have passed laws for “permitless carry" of concealed weapons. States may also refer to this as “constitutional carry." The theory behind such laws is that an otherwise law-abiding citizen has the right to carry a loaded firearm publicly for use in self-defense when the need arises. New Hampshire enacted a permitless carry law in 2017.

New Hampshire Gun Control Laws at a Glance

The federal government exercises limited authority over firearms. For example, it sought to tax and ban most use of certain automatic weapons like machine guns under the National Firearms Act (NFA) in 1934. 

In 1968, Congress passed the Gun Control Act (GCA) to revise the NFA, ban certain gun purchases through the mail, and expand the categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms. Amendments to the GCA include the development and enforcement of the federal NICS system of background checks on purchases of firearms from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

New Hampshire gun laws are more permissive when compared with those of other states. Some states require a waiting period before purchasing a gun, but New Hampshire doesn't. Federal law requires a background check on purchases from licensed dealers, but it doesn't on private gun sales between individuals. Some states have sought to close this loophole, requiring background checks on all sales and transfers. New Hampshire does not require a background check on private sales.

In New Hampshire, there is no minimum age for the purchase or possession of firearms. There is also no ban on assault weapons or ghost guns (untraceable firearms). Although it is not required, the state maintains a concealed firearm license system for reciprocity with other states. The New Hampshire State Police provide information on licensing and set-up agreements with other states. The application forms for New Hampshire residents and non-residents can be found online.

New Hampshire law provides for the right to carry a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle. It also has a preemption statute that prohibits firearm laws at the local level which would provide more regulation than the state. 

In contrast to federal law, New Hampshire does not prohibit those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from possessing or purchasing a firearm. However, it does bar those under an active protective order from applying to purchase a firearm. A first offense is a class A misdemeanor, but a second offense is a class B felony. The state also does not have legal prohibitions on the possession of a firearm based on mental health concerns, including ongoing treatment or court-ordered treatment.

In New Hampshire, the law prohibits firearms at courthouses with an exception for law enforcement officers, bailiffs, and court security personnel. However, there is no similar prohibition for non-students on school campuses. If a student brings a gun to school without authorization from the superintendent, they shall face expulsion for at least 12 months.


Relevant Statutes (Laws)

New Hampshire Revised Statutes, Title XII, Chapter 159

Illegal Arms

New Hampshire does not prohibit specific types of firearms.

Waiting Period

New Hampshire has no waiting period for purchasing a firearm.

Who May Not Own

A person may not own a firearm in New Hampshire if they have been convicted of the following offenses:

  • A felony against the person or property of another
  • A felony under RSA 318-B (controlled drug act)
  • A felony under the laws of another state or the federal government relating to controlled drugs
Under federal law, there are other prohibitions on possession. See 18 U.S.C. Section 922.

License Required?

New Hampshire does not require a license to purchase or own a gun.

Concealed Carry License Required?

A person may carry a concealed firearm in New Hampshire if they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm. No permit or license is required.

Open Carried Allowed?

Open carry is permitted in New Hampshire unless a person is otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm. No permit or license is required.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

A license is not required to carry a concealed firearm (pistol or revolver), but New Hampshire continues to offer a license. To obtain a license to carry a firearm, a person must have good reason to fear injury to their person or property or have any proper purpose, such as hunting, target shooting, or self-defense. A person may not obtain a license if they are prohibited from owning a possessing a firearm by New Hampshire or federal law.

Machine Gun Laws

New Hampshire law does not restrict the possession or ownership of machine guns, but federal regulations limit who may own, possess, or use a machine gun.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • Possessing a firearm while a convicted felon is a class B felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison; a fine of up to $4,000; or both
  • Selling a pistol, revolver, or other firearm to a felon is a class B felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison; a fine of up to $4,000; or both
  • A person with three or more felony convictions for certain violent offenses and drug crimes is considered an armed career criminal. Possessing a firearm as an armed career criminal is a felony punishable by a minimum mandatory term of 10 years in prison, a maximum term of 40 years in prison; a fine of up to $25,000; or both
  • If you sell, barter, hire, lend, or give a pistol or revolver to a minor (unless meeting an exception) it is a misdemeanor
  • Possessing a firearm (pistol or revolver) when identification marks (name of maker, model, manufacturer number) have been altered, removed, or obliterated is a misdemeanor
  • Knowingly carrying a firearm into a courtroom or courthouse is a class B felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison; a fine of up to $4,000; or both

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

New Hampshire does not prohibit the general public from possessing firearms on school property if they are not otherwise prohibited under state or federal law.

Red Flag Law?


Universal Background Checks?


Stand Your Ground Law?

Yes. New Hampshire law provides that a person can use deadly force in self-defense or defense of others when they are faced with deadly force by another. They are not required to retreat when in their own dwelling, its curtilage, or anywhere they have a right to be, if they were not the initial aggressor.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of the state law(s) you are reviewing.

New Hampshire Gun Control Laws: Related Resources

Have You Been Charged With a Gun Crime?

Navigating state and federal gun laws can be confusing. The laws in New England states vary. Gun laws in Massachusetts are often stricter than gun laws in New Hampshire or Maine. If you face state or federal gun charges, you will want to seek legal advice from someone who knows firearm laws in New Hampshire and neighboring states. You can locate a qualified criminal defense attorney today.

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